A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

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critical thinking

The goal of critical thinking is to arrive at the most reasonable beliefs and take the most reasonable actions. We have evolved, however, not to seek the truth, but to survive and reproduce. Critical thinking is an unnatural act. By nature, we're driven to confirm and defend our current beliefs, even to the point of irrationality. We are prone to reject evidence that conflicts with our beliefs and to attack those who offer such evidence.

The items below are listed in alphabetical order. For someone new to the subject, I suggest the following order of reading:

1) several essays I've written on the difficulty of changing minds: Belief Armor, Evaluating Personal Experience, Why Do People Believe in the Palpably Untrue?, Defending Falsehoods, and Why Woo-woo Wins.

2) the following entries: confirmation bias, cognitive dissonance, communal reinforcement, motivated reasoning, backfire effect, memory, and perception deception.

topical index: critical thinking

ad hoc hypothesis
ad hominem
ad populum fallacy
affect bias
affirming the consequent
anchoring effect
appeal to authority
appeal to tradition
argument to ignorance
autokinetic effect
availability error
Barnum effect
backfire effect
begging the question
change blindness
Clever Hans phenomenon
clever Linda phenomenon
clustering illusion
cognitive dissonance
cold reading
communal reinforcement
confirmation bias
continued influence effect
control group study
denying the antecedent
divine fallacy
evaluating evidence
face on Mars
file-drawer effect
false dichotomy
false implication
false memory
Forer effect
gambler's fallacy
hidden persuaders
hindsight bias
hypersensory perception
ideomotor effect
ignorance as a hindrance to critical thinking
inattentional blindness
law of truly large numbers
Littlewood's law of miracles
magical thinking
motivated reasoning
nasty effect
non sequitur
Occam's razor
perception deception
placebo effect
positive-outcome bias
post hoc reasoning
pragmatic fallacy
proportionality bias
recency bias
regressive fallacy
replication revisited
representativeness error
retrospective falsification
selection bias
selective thinking
single-cause bias/fallacy/illusion
straw man fallacy
subjective validation
sunk-cost fallacy
suppressed evidence
testimonials (anecdotal evidence)
Texas-sharpshooter fallacy
Wason Card Problem
wishful thinking

See also


Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking: postings about cognitive biases, logical fallacies, and illusions. Click here for an alphabetical index of postings so far.


Miraculous Deception - miracles, faith healing, self-deception

Using ghost stories to teach critical thinking

Evaluating Acupuncture Studies:Laughable vs. Dangerous Delusions


The Paralyzing Precautionary Principle

Statistics and Medical Studies

Fraud and Bias in Medical Research

Creating Your Own Pseudoscience - part 1

Creating Your Own Pseudoscience - part 2


2010: A Time for Reflection

Dowsing for Dollars: Fighting High-Tech Promises with Low-Tech Critical Thinking Skills

Energy Healing: Looking in All the Wrong Places

Gary Schwartz's Subjective Validation of Mediums

Critical Thinking and Control Groups

9/11 Conspiracies: the War on Critical Thinking

Teaching Critical Thinking

Clever Irrationality

Presentation on Teaching Critical Thinking

Teaching Critical Thinking
(html version) (click here for pdf version)
- expanded commentary from my CT workshop presentation at The Amazing Meeting V
- Available on DVD

Free downloads of chapters from my textbook on Critical thinking, Becoming a Critical Thinker, 2nd ed.

Chapter One, Critical Thinking

Chapter Two: Language and Critical Thinking

Chapter Three: Sources

Chapter Four: Identifying Arguments

Chapter Five: Evaluating Arguments

Chapter Six: Evaluating Extended Arguments

Chapter Seven: Sampling and Analogical Reasoning

Chapter Eight: Causal reasoning

Chapter Nine: Science and Pseudoscience

Answers to selected exercises


book reviews

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2011)

The Invisible Gorilla: And Other Ways Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons (Crown 2010)

How Doctors Think
by Jerome Groopman, M.D. (Houghton Mifflin 2007)

Snake Oil Science: The Truth about Complementary and Alternative Medicine
by R. Barker Bausell (Oxford 2007).

The March of Unreason: Science, Democracy, and the New Fundamentalism
by Dick Taverne (Oxford 2006).

The Power of Persuasion - How We're Bought and Sold
by Robert Levine (John Wiley & Sons 2003),
Don't Get Taken! - Bunco and Bunkum Exposed - How to Protect Yourself

by Robert A. Steiner (Wide-Awake Books 1989), and
The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading (third edition)
by Ian Rowland (Ian Rowland Limited 2002).

Searching for Memory - the brain, the mind, and the past
by Daniel L. Schacter (Basic Books 1996).

The Demon-Haunted World - Science as a Candle in the Dark
by Carl Sagan (Random House 1995).

The End of Materialism: How Evidence of the Paranormal is Bringing Science and Spirit Together by Charles T. Tart, Ph.D. (New Harbinger 2009)

The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death by Gary Schwartz (Atria 2003)

Entangled Minds: Extrasensory Experiences in a Quantum Reality by Dean Radin (Paraview Pocket Books 2006)

The Conscious Universe: The Scientific Truth of Psychic Phenomena by Dean Radin (HarperOne 1997)

Ghost Hunters - William James and the Hunt for Scientific Proof of Life After Death by Deborah Blum (Penguin Press 2006).

further reading

Browne, M. Neil & Stuart M. Keeley. Asking the Right Questions: A Guide to Critical Thinking (Prentice Hall, 2009).

Carroll, Robert Todd. Becoming a Critical Thinker - A Guide for the New Millennium (Boston: Pearson Custom Publishing, 2000).

Damer, T. Edward. Attacking Faulty Reasoning: A Practical Guide to Fallacy-Free Arguments 4th edition (Wadsworth Pub Co, 2008).

Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow (Kindle 2011) .

Moore, Brooke Noel and Richard Parker. Critical Thinking (McGraw Hill, 2008).

Smith, Jonathan. 2009. Pseudoscience and Extraordinary Claims of the Paranormal: A Critical Thinker's Toolkit. Wiley-Blackwell.

Vaughn, Lewis. 2009. The Power of Critical Thinking: Effective Reasoning About Ordinary and Extraordinary Claims. Oxford University Press.

Books by R. T. Carroll

cover The Critical Thinker's Dictionary

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